THE SWARM, one of the most exhilarating rides at THORPE PARK, is Europe’s first winged roller coaster. It’s special because the riders, instead of sitting on top of the track, are dangled either side. There is no floor and lots of props, as well as death-defying effects such as water sprays, which add extra suspense and excitement.
From 2013, the ride became even more intense because Thorpe reversed some of the rear seats, providing an all new experience. Watching THE SWARM, or any roller coaster going round could be scarier than riding it; that’s because from the ground it seems big, whereas once on board it’s a flash before your eyes (and your stomach). How a roller coaster works is down to the laws of physics. The coaster itself does not contain an engine, but runs on gravity and momentum.
Staff at THORPE PARK operate the entire ride from a control room. They lower the restraints once everyone is aboard and send the train on its way. The controls are also connected to the brakes which consist of a series of clamps built into the track that are operated by a hydraulic system. In the event of an emergency, the clamps will close in on metal fins underneath the train, slowing it to a stop.
You’ll begin your ride by ascending up the slope to the first peak. The roller coaster grips a chain lift with ‘chain dogs’. In the same way that a chain causes the pedals to turn on your bike, the chain lift rotates, dragging the roller coaster carriage up the slope. At the top of the slope, the coaster is released, allowing gravity to take over.
The roller coaster works according to Newton’s first law of motion, which dictates that objects move in a straight line at constant velocity unless acted upon by an outside unbalanced force. As the coaster hurtles towards a corner or bottom of a hill, the seats provide an unbalanced force which presses against each passenger’s body. And there you have it — positive Gs, which can make you feel twice as heavy as you weigh. If you remember that school experiment where you drop a feather and a scrunched-up paper ball at the same time, you’ll remember that heavier items fall faster than lighter ones, and like the paper ball, you are under the impression that you’re going even faster.
Hurtling at 3 Gs, the force of a car wreck, can seriously injure you in milliseconds, however because the effects of the roller coaster are dispersed over a period of minutes, instead of injury, you will feel an enjoyable sense of weightlessness. The fact that this floating feeling extends to your stomach is what makes you feel sick.
As you make that ascent towards the top of the ride, your seatbelt is the only thing preventing you from falling back and there is less pressure between your buttocks and the seat. This sensation is interpreted by the brain as weightlessness. Now sit back, relax and enjoy the moment, before you take the plunge.